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I think this souvenir style will quickly become a favorite of mine. It's better than those little shampoo and lotion bottles (my grandmother's linen closet was filled with them; no one ever used them), and matches are defunct, and these days they are on the "no fly" list. Collecting and buying things along the way can be expensive and difficult to handle as they grow in your suitcase. Our goal is to collect memories after all, right?
OK, I'll concede to the one (or three or five) items that are an absolute must-have from our travels. My clients often bring home fabric or a piece of art that will grace their home and bring the essence of the places they explored to their homes here in Colorado. When I'm not traveling, I am a decorative artist working with people who love to travel by helping them transform their spaces into a place where they will experience joy and happiness when they journey HOME. I am an artist, art therapist, explorer. I travel as much as I can. I love to explore a culture or a region by tasting food, looking at art and mixing with the locals. I too, have brought home things to help me remember the places I've been, but this souvenir helps me to escape my workday, take a mini break whenever I see it on my desk, or on my clipboard, and best of all it's free!
I recently traveled with a friend who pleasure travels, a LOT. This year she has been to Europe on 3 separate trips, Montreal, San Francisco, Vietnam, and then she'll be joining me in Mexico after Christmas. On our trip together this year (we went on an Aegean Tour; you can read about Istanbul, the delicious food, and the fabulous ornamentation in an earlier post in my blog) she asked me if I would mind if she took the stationary and notepads from each of the hotels we stayed in. Honestly, I had never given hotel stationary a second thought, but when I looked at the pad of paper on the desk--the rich Venetian Red, and the emblem of the historic Danieli Hotel, I have to admit, it would totally bring me back to a sweet memory of my stay at this opulent palace.
So when my friend is back at work, she writes her work notes, tasks, and various lists, on these notepads from her many travels. In the middle of her hectic days, she can glance at the headings and logos of the hotels and instantly be reminded of her explorations, the cafes, and the wonderful meals she had.
As far as notepads as souvenirs, I think she's onto something great. What small free or inexpensive souvenir do you collect to give you fond memories of your travels?
Now I think back to all the places I've gone, and I wish I had thought to collect the stationary back then...what a collection I'd have, and my desk , instead of being a place with looming pile of things that gotta get done, would be a place of fond memories of distant journeys.
One of my favorite ways of exploring a new place is try food! All kinds of food, but especially street food. I figure street food is the casual way of the locals. I love everything about it; navigating my way around an unfamiliar place, the aromas on the street that lead me down narrow alleys, the pantomiming and laughing that ensues as I try to order or figure out the what the heck I'm putting in my mouth! That's what I do: I travel, I'm inspired by my experiences, what I've seen and done, and I fill my head with painted furniture, rooms, and fine art to do for clients when I return home.
Turkey is a land of "fruit and honey", abundant, rich, and fertile. Breakfast was served with an assortment of nuts and yogurt, fruit, fresh breads, cheeses, and honey....glistening, golden, dripping honey--oozing out of the honeycomb, I felt spoiled and decadent. Don't miss the "Kaymak" (Turkey's version of a clotted cream), THE most decadent part of breakfast . Kaymak? Clotted Cream? Imagine butter and whipped cream getting together for the most blissful union. If you are lucky, you'll taste some made from the mild of water buffalo, sheep, or goats. Spread it on your freshly made bread, put it on your baklava, or eat it straight from your spoon.
Apple tea is the ever present tea in Turkey. It's a nice tradition; shopkeepers will offer you a cup as your are haggling over a deal, but the herbal tea is like a painting in a cup! The cup was overflowing with flowers and dried fruit. The shelves of the tea shop were piled with every dried flower, in every color, the aroma was heady and intoxicating. An adorably funny guy with a goofy smile served it up saying "Exsqueeze Me?" each time I asked him a question...so I kept asking questions. :-)
After exploring the Royal Harem at the Topkaki Palace Museum, the evening in Istanbul started with a bumpy car ride through the winding, narrow, cobbled streets behind the ancient walls of Istanbul. These paths were barely wider than the car itself, our driver expertly maneuvered around pedestrians, blind curves, and stray dogs with hardly a blink. The thrill of the ride elicited more than a few involuntary "ahhs" and "woah"'s as we sped along. Before we realized it, the car came to an abrupt stop, half on the curb James Bond 007 style, in front of 3 stone pylons at the end of a road. We were ushered out of the car and led down a narrow alley that had a hopeful glow at the end of it.
We emerged into a cheerfully lit fan shaped plaza with a fountain gurgling in the center, . This was the famous Kumkapi District where 6 streets meet, all lined on each side, with more festive seafood restaurants than I would have imagined. Every single restaurant was a seafood restaurant. So if we ate at 1 restaurant a day, I figured that would be enough fish to keep us busy for at least 72 days!
A stroll down the streets with the twinkling lights beckoned us. I was amazed at the back to back chairs and tables, heated by propane patio heaters on this brisk March evening. How do you decide where to eat? Some were full, some empty... remember that old "rule of thumb"? We wandered for as long as we could stand the chill then headed into a restaurant (Hosseda or Hos Seda) located at the central point of the plaza and asked for the warmest table.
Dish after dish of "mezes" or small plates start coming out of the kitchen. Olives, small sardines in a tomato sauce, phyllo wrapped cheese, eggplant, charred peppers glistening in olive oil... A favorite of mine ended up being a "butter shrimp"--small shrimp broiled in butter and spices and served hot and sizzling. According to the video clip, I had two.
Three if you count dinner the next night.
What was your favorite memorable meal while traveling?
The Hagia Sophia was quite breathtaking, and the Blue Mosque was an incredible structure. I loved that these two destinations were so close to each other, and the Topkapi Palace Museum. Even the Grand Bazaar wasn't too far, and just 2 tram
stops away. Of all of these beautiful places, my breath was bated and my camera was clicking like crazy in the Harem at the Topkapi. The Sultan's crown jewels didn't even shine as brightly to me as the miles of decorative painting in the private quarters of the Sultan and his women. Of course, right? I'm a artist, a painter, a designer. I'd give up my most treasured brush (provided I could buy a new one!) to design and decorate with the complex layers, patterns, colors, and gilding that I saw in the Harem. That's what I do: I travel, I'm inspired by historical painting, textures, and patinas, and I fill my head with painted furniture and rooms to do when I return home.
What is a Harem anyway? The Harem is the place, and the name for the women, in a Muslim polygamist household. "Harama" is Arabic for "prohibited" or "prohibited place". So it's easy to see how that translates to the space. The Harem place is the women's quarters or the sanctuary for the wives and concubines. It's prohibited for any other man to enter. Can you imagine wives and concubines living in the same space? No wonder they needed such elaborate paintings on the walls--to distract them from the drama that must surely exist!
The Topkapi Palace was home to the ruling Sultans of the Ottaman Empire from 1465 to the mid 1800's. It functioned a lot like the White House in the US and the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, China. Residence to the leaders, as well as work space, and reception areas. In the mid 1800's the first European style palace was built, the Dolmabahçe Palace, and court and most official functions moved there, then the royal palace was declared a state museum in the 20's.
I was fascinated with the amount of painting and the different styles. I imagine being one of the chosen artists, wobbling atop a bamboo scaffold, painting with a brush I made of horse hair, squirrel hair....whatever.... probably painting alongside a team of a hundred other artisans, secretly proud that I got picked to paint the Sultan's harem. Istanbul spans the two continents of Asia and Europe and the influence of the contrasting cultures is evident. (In contemporary decorating I personally love seeing a blend and mix of cultural influences far more than a singular, often overwhelming or stagnant, style) .
The Apartments of the Queen Mother (not like Britain's Queen Mum, but the main wife of the Sultan) was adorned with European style (mid 18th century) panorama paintings set above blue and green motif tiles from the Anatolia region, and all of this was crowned with highly embellished and patterned traditional Muslim geometric painted designs on the ceiling. ((sigh))
My favorite section of painted decoration was a highly decorated buttress of a domed ceiling in the Imperial Hall. The stunning combination of the steely blue gray background, the bright gold leafing (did they make a gold leaf paint?) on the scroll and design work, and a burgundy accent near the center of the field, made me swoon. I must remember this combination for some future furniture work! One thing I noticed, was that many designs were asymmetrical to the room, as was the furniture placement. The little furniture that was there, the Throne, (is mainly what I am referring to), was placed in the room off to the side, not in a grand central location that we would imagine or have seen in the Imperial Palace in China, or the British palaces.
I had to snicker just a little when I spied a break in the perfect patterns. The area was a hall or transitional area outside the Imperial Hall, and granted, the artist(s) did not have an easy surface to address. You can see in my picture the repeating pattern shifts up just slightly at the left, and there is a break in the vertical alignment on the right. The design on that part also gets a little heavy handed and the design loses it's detail. Tired artist? Inexperienced apprentice? Part of the Harem was destroyed in 1666 by fire, many rooms were re-worked, so is this part historical painting, modern renovation, or original work? What do you think?
My other favorite color palette at the Harem was a soft light gray with gold leaf detail. The color combination was so gentle and airy. The door way shows the color up close. I am in love with that sweeping gold line in the central panel and it's asymmetrical placement of the text. The other picture shows a similar color scheme on the eave of the roof.
I'm not quite ready to leave, but there is so much to see in Istanbul. Maybe I will spend a lazy day when I get home and watch the 1964 comedy caper movie Topkaki, with Marlena Mercouri and Peter Ustinov, about the theft of a the bejeweled Sultan's Dagger from the Topkapi Museum, just to bring me back in my dreams.
I resisted the blogging movement for a long time, but I realized eventually, that one of the things I love so much about my journeys is sharing all the things I’ve seen, experienced and tasted! When my clients or friends come join me on a trip I love showing them what I have grown to love about our destination, and I love exploring new things with them and seeing it through their eyes. So blogger be me!
Traveling and experiencing new cultures and places affect so many areas of my life; my cooking, what I wear, and of course what I create in art. It started when I was 7. My father moved us to Taiwan for a year, within our second week there I had spent a few nights at a Buddhist temple in the mountains.-- Buddha vignettes have been a part of my life ever since. I spent my 16th summer in China without my parents. I learned to ride the bus, shop and eat at the local markets, and even hitchhike on ox carts. I now spend entire afternoons making dumplings (potstickers) and remembering the dumpling restaurants I went to on the crowded side streets of Beijing. After traveling in India, I grew to love the Salwar Kameez, the typical Punjab pantsuit for women.
I am the person my travels made me. And the sum is much greater than the parts. I am a unique composition of Taiwan, Thailand, Austria, Venice, Dubrovnik, Australia, Kentucky, Toronto...... The list goes on....you can be sure I'll share my experiences here.
I am an artist, a decorative painter, an art therapist, and an entrepreneur. I love working with people who love to journey as much as I do. I help them feel joy and happiness in their home after exciting journeys. The finishes I do are inspired by the places I travel and the places they travel…India, China, Italy, Mexico…beaches, cities, mountains…
Where is home and where do you like to travel? How does your travel affect you after you return home? What inspires you?
I like to try new things when I'm traveling. These experiences, or flavors of the culture, inspire me. They push me, make me grow. They stimulate new expressions in my art, my cooking, and yes, even in my relationships.(sometimes they make me gag, like the fried scorpion I tried in China...)
If you've been to Turkey, did you go to a hamam? Have you done a Korean Bath house? I think they are similar experiences, except for the architecture. I went to the springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas where they do an old style bath experience. I love bathing rituals; each one is unique. Would you say that the US has a bathing ritual? I don't, but let me know if I'm overlooking something.
My "Hamam" experience...I chose a "locals" experience vs. a spa experience. The Tahiri Sifa Hamami was about 4 blocks from my hotel in the Sultanahmet district. It's very non descript as you enter, but it's been there since 1777, the sign assures me. The guy in the picture? He comes to the desk clad only in a Turkish towel around his mid section. Yes, it gave me a little start, because I can never get those things to stay put.
In the main room of the bath (above, right) You lie naked, draped in a Turkish pestemal (a thin traditional Turkish towel) on the marble slab, the room is hot and steamy; they heat the marble with hot water underneath. There was a slight smell of charred wood in the air--heated with wood fire? Or my imagination spurred on by the fact this hamam was almost destroyed in the 50s by fire?
Off to the sides are areas with marble basins with flowing hot and cold water, to rinse off and cool down. You turn on the water and scoop it out with plastic bowls. I wasn't so sure about those basins at first, they are just the right size and height for a toilet or a bidet...... :-) There was a domed ceiling with circular glass to let light in above the slab table. It's a centuries old traditional design. I added a picture of an ancient non-functioning Hamam in Kusadasi, Turkey.
In the bathing room I laid on the pestemal on the table as my masseuse scrubbed me down with a loofah, then she used a large thin cotton bag and scrubbed it up with soap, swooped it through the air to fill the bag with air and forced the air out through the bag forming huge piles of foamy bubbles. Then she gently wiped it over my body... It was a heavenly sensation, and quite ticklish. She casually swatted my behind or thigh every time she wanted me to turn over. Next she shampooed and conditioned my hair with a head massage while I sat on the floor on the pestemal. I felt like a child during this whole process; it was so nurturing.
After the bath, I robe up and sit lounge area and relax with the ubiquitous Turkish Apple Tea before going to massage. I opted to get the face mask too. I don't know what it was, but my skin was brighter and healthier looking immediately. Apparently it's a recipe from the women because they got paid that fee separately.
Bath, foam, shampoo, oil massage, face mask, and tea; $40usd. Nicha (sp?) my masseuse,--she saw me naked, scrubbed my body, and swatted my tush, so I think now she must be designated as my Turkish mother; I will call her my "Ha-mama".
Would you get naked in Istanbul?
Who am I?